3 Tactics to Avoid Identity Theft

How Do I Avoid Identity Theft?

Nobody wants to be the victim of identity theft or credit card fraud but it is becoming an increasingly bigger problem in today’s technology-based world. It takes vigilance and consistency to be protected and there are steps you should be taking for the safety of your personal identity. We have divided these strategic and actionable tactics into three categories: 1. Prevent 2. Detect 3. Act…

1. Prevent

  • Check your credit report often. Be sure you recognize every account opened in your name.
  • Scan through your credit card, debit card, and bank statements. Make sure you recognize all of the transactions and nothing is out of the ordinary.
  • Shred all documents that contain personal information before discarding.
  • Use a secure channel to send sensitive information to trusted sources, such as home or office WIFI networks and secure file sharing services (i.e. Box, Dropbox, Google Drive).
  • Use secure passwords and change them often – every four months at a minimum.
  • Lock your phone with a password, and turn the Bluetooth connection off on your mobile devices when you are not using it.
  • Be mindful of your paper mail. Sign up for electronic delivery of all your secure documents, or have them sent to a PO Box. Better yet, lock your mailbox so thieves don’t have easy access to any of your paper mail.
  • Keep your credit and debit cards in sight at all times. Cover the keypad when entering your debit PIN number.
  • Be very defensive about giving away your personal information. Is a store asking for your zip code, email, or phone number? Say no thank you. Are they extremely pushy? Provide a fake one!
  • Be wary of suspicious emails and scams. The IRS will not initiate contact with you by email to request personal or financial information.
  • Be cautious about social media and what you post. Leave personal details such as your birthday and vacation whereabouts off your profile.
  • Place a freeze on your credit by contacting all three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union). This restricts access to your credit report, which can prevent thieves from opening fraudulent accounts in your name. If you need to apply for a new mortgage or a new credit card and need to run your credit report, temporarily lift the freeze.

2. Detect

  • If you attempt to electronically file your tax return, and it is rejected because your social security number, or your spouse’s, was already used on a filed tax return, then someone has fraudulently filed a tax return in your name.
  • If you receive an IRS notice or letter stating that you may be a victim of identity theft, please use an abundance of caution! Thieves are attempting to mimic IRS notices, and asking you to call their phone number to gather information (i.e. social security numbers, address, etc.).
  • When receiving an IRS notice, instead of calling the number listed on the notice, call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 and first verify that the notice was actually sent by the IRS before taking any requested action.

3. Act

  • If you are a victim of credit card or identity theft, immediately contact your credit card issuers. Get replacement cards with new account numbers, and ask that your old account be processed as “account closed at consumer’s request” for credit recording purposes.
  • Call the fraud units of all three credit reporting bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union). Report the theft and ask that the accounts be flagged. Place a freeze on your credit if you have not already done so.
  • Report the crime to the police immediately. Get a copy of the police report and case number. Credit card companies, the bank, or the insurance company may ask for the report to verify the crime.
  • Notify the Social Security Administration’s Office of Inspector General if your social security number has been used fraudulently at 1-800-269-0271 or oig.ssa.gov
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-ID-THEFT or www.consumer.gov/idtheft
  • Contact the IRS Identity Theft Victim Assistance Unit at 1-800-908-4490. The IRS will take action to secure your tax account. They will ask that you file Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, and will provide you with an Identity Protection PIN number that you will need to file your tax returns going forward.

At PagnatoKarp, our goal is to provide helpful research that educates and raises awareness of issues that affect your safety. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.

Research sources include:
https://www.usa.gov/identity-theft
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/identity-theft
http://guides.wsj.com/personal-finance/credit/how-to-protect-yourself-from-identity-theft/
http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2012/12/18/6-tips-to-protect-yourself-from-identity-theft
http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2010/07/protect-your-identity/index.htm
https://www.thetaxbook.com/

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